Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 8: Mary Has it Coming

It’s been a rough week here at my house, with bouts of flu for all five members of the family leading to pneumonia, ear infections and assorted other maladies. All of which adds up to the fact that I’ve been preoccupied and am only able to turn in a short(ish) late recap of the penultimate episode. But if any episode deserves a short and sweet recap, it is this one.

Season 6, Episode 8 was so generally awesome there is not much to say, except that it was almost (almost) like Season 1 all over again. Solid writing, substantive dialogue, more or less believable action, characters that you care about, scenes that make you cry — at least if you’re like me. Yes, indeed. I wept like a fool this week, pretty much from the middle of the episode until it ended. I even clapped a few times. And laughed. So basically, between the laughing, clapping and crying I looked like a lunatic.

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Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 6: Local Wretches Visit Downton

After last episode’s blood bath, this one offered a much calmer prospect. We see Lord G right away, still alive and propped up bed, reading letters and refraining from strong drink. He looked a little pale, but generally none the worse for the wear in spite of his ulcer exploding, a process in which he lost gallons and gallons of blood in projectile fashion, all while ruining his white dress bib and a very expensive set of table linens. On the upside, this incident gave his guest Neville Chamberlain something to talk about at dinner parties forever after, at least up until the advent of World War II. which was only marginally more dramatic.

While Lord G recovered in bed, lots of to-ing and fro-ing took place among the aristocratic set, with Mary going down to London and Bertie coming up from London and Cora walking from room to room, busy with this or that. Granny G. was busy too, visiting her son and sitting at his bedside, reveling in the fact that his exploding ulcer and subsequent need for immediate treatment meant that everyone would now have to see the value of the village hospital. A hospital with patients that Granny feels a deep, abiding, overwhelming obligation toward, since she is their “representative on earth”, as she put it. God represents them in heaven, Granny represents them on earth, and Skulking Barrow represents them in hell, where he goes regularly to consort with the devil himself. That is, when Barrow’s not giving piggyback rides to Master George and chucking li’l Sybbie under the chin in the hallways of Downton.

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Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 5: Night of the Living Dead

Wow.

I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but Episode 5 of the The Final Season contained so much verbal and visual juice it was hard to contain myself. I’m not even sure how to begin to dig into this one, exactly, but I think I’ll take my cue from Julian Fellowes himself in this regard. When in doubt, start with the pigs.

We Need to Talk about the Pigs

Or so Mary says, referring to a talk she simply must have with Farmer Mason. The pigs were mentioned right away in the episode, much to my delight, as I have resigned myself to the importance of pigs.

The show opens with Mary and Tom chatting while tromping through a field with a lovely view of Downton. Tom tells Mary he hopes she is alright with the decision to move Farmer Mason into her esteemed former Pigman’s house. Mary reassures Tom that she’s basically okay with it, especially since “pigs are Mr. Mason’s speciality”. This is news to all of us, and perhaps, even, to Farmer Mason. But it is crucial to determine his skill level in pigmanship, as Downton’s flock of 15 pigs rank just below Daisy’s educational pursuits and well above Edith’s happiness in securing Downton’s future, and should be treated accordingly.

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Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 4: Mary (re)Meets a Mate

I’m late to the recapping party this week, and am squeezing this one in just under the wire, since a new episode airs tonight. To the seven people who read these recaps: I apologize for the delay.

Mary Begins the Mating Dance

One thing you can count on about Downton, where there’s an unexpected guest, chances are that this guest will be an eligible bachelor, perfect for Iron Mary. There may only be half a dozen young men of marriageable age left in all of England after the wholesale slaughter of the Great War, yet Mary has managed to find and discard at least three of them. But she’s a lucky one, that girl, so it is no surprise.

It turns out that Mary has already met — and been intrigued by — this particular bachelor back at Lord Sindeby’s shooting party, the one where there were not enough duck blinds to go around. His name is Lord RaceCarNoMoney, and it looks as though he is a real match for Mary. I can only hope he is the Love of her Life #2, as I am feeling much more charitable towards her, since she was, in general, a more decent human being in this episode.

My favorite moment of Mary’s dinner date with Lord RaceCarNoMoney came when he asked her what her “enthusiasms” were, and she delicately dabbed her mouth with her napkin and said, “My work”. Lord RCNM nodded and acknowledged Mary’s fantastic career, before gently prompting her to mention her son. It was almost as if he had expected that Mary would have answered “George, my darling son.” when asked about her enthusiasms, and in fairness, Mary would have, if only she had remembered that she had a son. But she rallied and said that she was working to save the estate for George, who would inherit Downton Abbey not through her, but through her cousin Matthew, to whom the estate was entailed. Matthew also happened to be her late husband and George’s father, and — oh nevermind, the point is it is all very “neat and tidy”, as Mary said, and Downton will be saved, which is great.

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Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 3: Tom is Back Plus a Wedding

I stayed awake for this episode, mostly because Cora did a lot more talking than usual and Edith finally fired her editor (either that or he quit — I couldn’t quite tell) and as a result she, too, did a lot more talking. It perked me up, to see both of those ladies expressing an opinion. Usually, they spend each episode like well-dressed turtles: inert, lying in one place, until at unexpected moments a face emerges. The eyes become animated and finally, slowly, there is some movement. A walk across a room, say, or a gander at some pigs at a fat stock show.

But don’t get too excited, folks, as next week Cora could be sitting on a couch again, dully staring into the middle distance. And Edith could go right back to being her old self, arms dangling at her sides, watching helplessly as Mary steals Mr. LandAgent right from under her nose and Marigold goes to live with Mrs. Pigman.

And Mary might just do this, since she’s been lacking a man to emasculate since the season started (though Mr. LandAgent might not prove to be much of a challenge in this regard).

In this episode, the big news at Downton Abbey is twofold: a Wedding and a Comeback.

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Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 2: Pigs

This is the episode that nearly broke me. I was looking forward to watching the show online today, but only a quarter of the way through, I felt a panic attack coming on. I paused the show and placed an emergency phone call to my oldest sister, Jenny.

Jenny had already watched the episode, and knew what rocky terrain ahead, terrain filled with lots of conversations about hospital mergers, wedding venues, and pigs. So many pigs.

The phone rang and rang. My panic increased. What if Jenny didn’t pick up? I had to talk with her. I needed help. Immediate help. When she answered, I felt my throat catch in a sob. Help me Jenny!

“About Downton Abbey…” I began. “I don’t think I can do it anymore, Jenny.” I said. “I don’t think I can watch this episode. I think I’m through with this show.”

“Shhhh….” Jenny reassured me, in the manner of older sisters everywhere. (Except for Mary, the older sister with a heart like a piece of granite wedged inside a steel cage.) “It will be okay.” Jenny continued. “You can get through this.”

“But Molesley!” I sputtered. “He started talking to Daisy again about the exams! About taking that stupid math test that he yammered on and on and on about last season!” I started to cry.

“It’s okay, Sarah.” Jenny said again. “It will all be okay. Sure, Molesley can’t stop talking about Daisy’s education. And sure, there are a lot more pigs ahead of you, but you can get through those scenes. Just concentrate on the clothes. And the furniture. Concentrate on how beautiful everything is, how interesting it is to look at.”

“Alright…” I murmured, wiping the tears from my eyes. “If you say so. If you say I can get through this episode, I guess I can.”

“Sure you can!” Jenny said brightly. “And remember: when another scene with the pigs comes on the screen, just close your eyes and think of England.”

And readers, I made it. I watched the entire episode, all the way to the end, to the final scene: Ripping Marigold Out of Mrs. Drew’s Arms Redux 2.0.

I Can Do This

Unlike last season’s painful version of Ripping Marigold out of Mrs. Drew’s Arms (Original Mix), I didn’t cry while watching. I had already cried all the tears I’m gonna cry for this trainwreck of a show. Oh Downton. Why are you doing this to us? We faithfully watch week after week, yet all you can do is rehash the same plot points over and over. It’s like being inside the movie Groundhog Day. Every episode we wake up to the same thing: blackmail, scandal, times they are a-changin’, ice boxes and radios, li’l babies and thwarted love, let’s go to America! let’s not go to America!, Thomas is scheming, Thomas is lonely, Bateses killed someone, no they didn’t, Bateses can’t have a baby, yes they can (they are one person after all), let’s keep a secret, let’s tell someone that secret, oh look! here’s a letter from someone far away, let’s all eat breakfast together and murmur inanities, Granny vs. Isobel, Isobel vs. capitalism, Isobel vs. suitors, Cora on a couch, Cora walking around a room, Cora on another couch, everyone hates Edith, and finally, the greatest plot point of them all, one that transcends every season, a timeless sort of topic….. drumroll please.… aren’t those pigs just great?

Pigs are the Best Thing Ever

The thing about pigs is that we can all agree that they are fandamntastic. When all else fails, the pigs will bring us together. Lord G, Lady G, baby George, li’l Marigold, who was “aching to see the pigs” quoth Lady Edith, who got out of the pig-viewing so that she could head to London and be abused by her editor instead of Mary for a change, the village farmers, the farming villagers, the under-butlers and second footmen, ladies maids and the Bateses — the pigs will bring everyone together.

Not sure how Lady Rosalind/Rosamund feels about pigs, but we’ll bring her around soon enough. Did she make it to the fat stock show at Moulton? No? You don’t know what a fat stock show is? Well it’s an opportunity to say pigs a lot. How many times can we all utter the word pigs in this episode? I dunno but let’s go for a million!

Oh that fat stock show! What a time everyone had! Them was some doings! Pigs to look at and give ribbons to PLUS a game of nine pins to play! Pins and pigs go together like nobody’s business. The pigs were so enchanting that Poor Edith failed to notice that her ill-gotten daughter had disappeared. The only one to show sense in that entire nightmare of a climactic scene (yes! the pig show was intended to be the crux of the whole episode) was Mrs. Drew. She absconded with Li’l Marigold heading back to the farm where a comfortable couch and a cup of tea awaited. When confronted by the Crawley Car stuffed with aristocrats, spilling out from all sides like clowns at a circus, Mrs. Drew gave a simple explanation for the kidnapping.

“She was bored, so I took her home.” she shrugged.

Yes! Yes, we are all bored! We are all bored to tears. Please take us home, Mrs. Drew. Take us home, and tuck us in, and when we wake up, Groundhog Day will be over, and the pigs will have disappeared, and we will never ever ever again have to hear Anna say a line like the one she said to Mary, a few nights before the Fat Stock Pig Show:

“You’ll have the last laugh m’lady. When you show up with the pigs in tow.”

Oh please. Make it stop.

Next Week:

Who cares? I don’t know. Something about Li’l Daisy Snackcakes, the socialist-mathematician, and Old Man Mason moving into the Drew’s pigsty, Edith and a feller, blah blah blah. Just close your eyes and think of England.